Possible hack delays Snowden talk

April 14, 2016

Photo: Isaiah Seibert

Technical difficulties delayed Edward Snowden’s speaking event in the Lohrfink Auditorium on April 14, which took place via web call. The event, sponsored by the Lecture Fund and moderated by Professor Alvaro Bedoya of the Law Center, was scheduled to start at 11 AM, but Snowden could not be reached  until around noon. There has been speculation on the part of Lecture Fund representatives and Snowden’s assistant that a hack may have caused the difficulties.

According to Helen Brosnan (COL ‘16), Chair of the Lecture Fund’s Executive Board, the block interfered with Snowden’s transmission. “The only information we have available is that it was just being blocked in their region,” she said.  According to Brosnan, Snowden’s assistant told the Lecture Fund that ‘We think he might have been hacked.”

The Lecture Fund had run several tests before the event to ensure that all the equipment was working properly. “We had a test call, talked to him for about 30, 45 minutes before anyone was in here,” said Brosnan. “It was great and worked. It was amazing. We have videos of when we did it with him earlier.”

According to Brosnan, they ended the call after the test run so that Snowden could finish some work. However, when they tried to reconnect for the actual event, the call was blocked. “When we tried to test the call at 10:45 or a little bit before we started, they couldn’t get through on their end,” said Brosnan.  At noon, connection was reestablished with a system Snowden said he built himself, though connectivity was poor.

The Lecture Fund is still in the dark on the source of the possible hack. “Obviously I don’t know how serious it is. I assume it’s pretty minor,” said Brosnan.“I think someone might have just figured out maybe he was trying to do this sort of thing. But yeah, we literally have no information. He just mentioned it could’ve been a hack.”

Snowden is a former CIA employee and federal contractor, who leaked classified information in 2013. In response to charges against him, he emigrated to Russia.

Snowden has done several of these types of talks before, but according to Brosnan, this is the first one in which he had serious difficulties.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct the event’s location.

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